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MIAMI -- One would think, after seven years as a cruise director
with Carnival Cruise Lines, Troy Linton would have the job
description pretty much narrowed down to an exact science.
"I really can't describe exactly what it is that I do. It's
different almost every single day."
One thing it's not, he says, is the same job done by the
clipboard-carrying Julie McCoy, the perky cruise director of
television's "Love Boat."
Spending a day with Linton last month on the Imagination, it
becomes apparent that there really is no "typical" day in the life
of a cruise director.
Embarkation day is different from a disembarkation day, while a
full day at sea carries much different responsibilities than a day
in a port-of-call. Today is a full day at sea. It's day two of a
five-day itinerary making stops in Grand Cayman and Calica,
8:30 a.m. -- Linton begins this day, as he does
every other, with morning announcements. In his room, he sips
coffee and looks over the day's overstuffed schedule. "Full days at
sea are always like this," he says.
8:45 a.m. -- Still in his cabin, Linton reaches
over and flips the switch that turns on the ship's public address
system. He begins running through the list of activities like a
news anchor relaying the day's top stories.
There's a golf putting contest at 9:00 a.m., a dance class at
9:30, a trivia challenge at 10:00 a.m., as well as a snorkeling
demonstration, an Eat More to Weigh Less seminar and a game of
bingo worth $1,100 bucks. He reminds passengers tonight is the one
and only formal night on the ship. "Please be sure to dress
appropriately," he says.
Meanwhile, Linton will change his own wardrobe three to four
times per day, depending on the his schedule. He laughs. "I have a
lot of clothes and very small closet."
Today, he starts out with khakis and a white Polo shirt. He
glances at his watch and realizes he's due downstairs any minute
for the weekly captain's meeting.
He grabs his coffee and is gone.
9:30 a.m. -- The one-hour meeting focuses on
new safety regulations and guidelines.
He listens. He takes notes. "Stuff changes so quickly that
keeping up with all the new safety regulations is a constant
battle," he says.
10:30 a.m. -- Linton swings back to his cabin
and picks up some literature and promotional items -- T-shirts,
black coral earrings, Tortuga rum cakes and few underwater cameras
for snorkeling in Grand Cayman -- to be given away at a talk he'll
be giving this morning on the various shore excursions
10:40 a.m. -- It's obvious Linton can not get
very far on this ship without being stopped once, twice or 10 times
to be asked a question. No matter how many they ask, he doesn't
seem to mind at all -- even though he may end up answering the same
question several times a day. This latest one is from a gentleman
wondering if there's any way to get Cuban cigars into into the
"Sure isn't," Linton says.
The man's disappointed, figuring Linton can give him some
insider information on outsmarting the feds.
"Seriously. You can buy 'em but you gotta smoke 'em on board.
There's usually a group of guys up on Lido Deck turning green from
smoking a bunch of Cubans the night before the cruise ends. That's
always fun to see."
11:00 a.m. -- Time for the shore excursion talk
in Dynasty Lounge.
"As a cruise director, it's my job to make sure people have fun,
keep them informed so they can decide what's for them and what's
He gives out shopping maps showing Carnival-approved stores in
Grand Cayman and Mexico. Those stores carry a 30-day, money-back
guarantee through Carnival.
"A lot of people are a little unsure of shopping in new places
and they want to make sure they're not getting ripped off," Linton
says. "This is something Carnival came up with to try to ease
concerns and encourage people to feel good about shopping in all
our ports of call."
He stresses over and over again that passengers will need to
bring their "Sign and Sail" card and one form of picture ID to
re-board the ship.
"And yes, we will leave without you," he warns. "If you go off
on your own in Grand Cayman and you don't make it back in time
you'll be catching a flight to Calica. It's happened before."
12:30 a.m. -- A huge crowd is waiting for
Linton after he finishes his talk to ask one-on-one questions.
• "Which tours work best for kids?"
• "Is there lunch provided on the glass-bottom boat tour?"
• "Which Mayan ruin site -- Tulum or Chichen Itza -- does he
• "Do you recommend that we rent a Jeep in Mexico?"
He tells this woman to use a particular operator that he's used
and to pay for the rental with a credit card for protection.
"I feel the shore excursions are a direct reflection on me," he
admits. "If I've been on one or I've heard a tour isn't that good I
won't recommend it. My job is to make sure everyone enjoys
themselves. I have no problem be brutally honest about some of the
As the room begins to empty out a young couple ask him about
"Imagine It," tonight's Las Vegas-style show.
"I know the ladies always love this show, but guys ..." he
pauses and smiles "well, there will be G-strings in the show." The
couple laughs. "Of course it'll be the guys in the band wearing
He couldn't resist.
1:00 p.m. -- Lunchtime. Linton hits the staff
dining room for a quick bite to eat. It's a buffet, but not like
the passengers are accustomed to seeing.
"We don't have the same dining options the passengers do, but I
have to say it's getting better. They've introduced new menus so we
don't have to eat the same things all the time."
1:30 p.m. -- Linton heads back up to his cabin
to begin compiling the contents for tomorrow's Carnival Capers, the
ship's daily newsletter. The Capers arrives under every cabin door
each morning. Wednesday's Capers begins with banner headline
"Welcome to Grand Cayman".
2:40 p.m. -- Linton drops off the finished
Capers to the ship's hotel manager. She will serve as its only
2:50 p.m. -- Linton swings open his closet door
and scans the possibilities. He decides on black pants, a black
shirt and a gray blazer. In 10 minutes he has to play host to "The
Newlywed, Not So Newlywed" game.
3:00 p.m. -- A game-show hungry crowd has
gathered in the Dynasty Lounge and Linton finds three couples in
the audience -- the most recently married, the couple that's been
married the closest to 25 years and the two that have been married
Linton's quick to point out when a male contestant answers that
the date of the couple's first kiss is weeks before the day he
claims they met. "Um ... was that kiss in a very dark room by any
chance?" Linton asks.
4:30 p.m. -- Linton attends another quick staff
meeting. Today, the discussion focuses on how a new dining schedule
is working out. On this particular cruise, Linton has change the
times of the dinner seatings in the main dining rooms.
In the past, there were early and late seatings. A 6 p.m. and 8
p.m. in both the Spirit and Pride dining rooms. In order to
generate more traffic around the ship at different times -- as well
as give cruisers more time options -- Linton decides to make four
dinner seatings: 6 p.m., 6:45 p.m. 8 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. So far it
seems to be working like a charm.
"We may have an early show at 7 that ends at 8. Half the people
go directly to dinner while the other half have 45 minutes to
kill," Linton says. "Well, those people are dressed and aren't
going back to their cabins so they'll have a drink, stop by the
casino, go to the piano bar or whatever."
It's also improved the flow of traffic on the Promenade deck,
where most of the ship's bars and nightclubs are located. In fact,
the new traffic flow has Linton seriously considering whether to
change the times the band plays in the Shangri La lounge. Linton is
forever thinking about ways to generate more traffic -- and thus
generate more revenue -- on the ship. In short, the more money the
passengers spend on the ship the better it looks for a cruise
director come review time.
6:15 p.m. -- Buffet dinner in the staff dining
room. After dinner, Linton heads back to his cabin to change into
this evening's attire -- a navy blue pinstriped suit and a striped
7:30 p.m. -- Linton is in evening mode and will
spend the next three hours "cruising" the entertainment areas of
the ship. He's there to see and to be seen. He stops by the ship's
bars and lounges. He checks in with "Skippy," his entertainment
assistant, to make sure all the night's activities are running on
8:15 p.m. -- He stops the Dynasty Lounge to see
how the first "Imagine It" show went off. No problems. The show
will run again at 8:45.
9:00 p.m. -- Linton stops by Illusions Disco
and scans the crowd that has gathered for tonight's Teen Disco for
13- to 18-year-olds. He seems pleased, but knows it's only night
two of the cruise.
"We do our best to try to keep the teen-agers active and give
them a bunch of things to do," Linton says. "It's tough though,
because you have to plan events, but make them seem unplanned. It
can be very tricky."
10:30 p.m. -- Linton is at the Dynasty Lounge
to host an hour of swing and big band music with Zac Lee & the
Imagination Orchestra. Linton, a music major in college, got his
first gig on a Carnival ship eight years ago as a trumpet player in
Tonight, he jumps in on guest trumpet for a couple of songs. The
band plays "In the Mood" and several couples hit the stage to strut
their stuff. Next, Linton grabs the microphone and croons Sinatra's
classic "It's Witchcraft." Certainly not in the job description,
but everyone in the room can tell Linton loves it.
11:55 p.m. -- The day's winding down. Linton
makes another pass of the Promenade and ends up stopping and
chatting with several guests. There are about 2,500 people on this
sailing. Linton figures that he meets and talks with 50% to 75% of
all the passengers on each cruise.
"Then I stand by the exit on de-embarkation day and I see groups
of people that I never saw the entire cruise and I can't believe
that can happen. But it does."
1:00 a.m. -- With day two of the five-day
sailing complete, Linton finally turns his attention to tomorrow.
"It's going to be an early one," he says.
Imagination arrives in Grand Cayman at 7:15 a.m.Waterworks: When a job's out to sea
MIAMI -- Generally, Carnival cruise directors sign six- to
eight-month contracts. Troy Linton is in the sixth month of a
contract that runs through November.
He then gets six weeks off before beginning another six-to
eight-month stint on a different Carnival ship. This year, he's one
of the lucky ones -- he'll get Thanksgiving, Christmas and New
Year's off. He arranged it that way because last year he was stuck
working for the millennium celebration.
"This job isn't for everybody. It's -- literally -- an
around-the-clock, job," he says. "You're never off duty and it
takes a special kind of person to enjoy this kind of work. But I
And when he's not on a vacation break, Linton is constantly
working. In a two-week period, the Imagination sails two five-day
and a four-day itinerary.
That leaves six "turn-around" days a month for Linton to jump on
the mainland for a few hours or so to get things done.
Is it worth it? Well, Carnival will not give out salary
information for cruise directors; however, Linton recently took a
short leave from the Imagination to pick up his brand new
He parks it near the Carnival terminal in Miami so he can use it
on those turnaround days.